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Juan Antonio Zunzunegui

ZUNZUNEGUI, JUAN ANTONIO

 

I was born in Portugalete, in The New Street, next to Canton of the Whalf. My two sisters, older than me, were born in the whalf, in the house that was next to the church of Santo Tomás, but in winter, when vacationers were going, that part of the whalf was lonely and my parents retired to live in New Street, where my uncle lived, Miguel Loredo, and there I was born on 21 December 1900. I was born with a deep vocation as a writer, to the annoyance of my father, who, as a good son of the river, he loved the business but he had an only son, me.
My birth as an artist is humble as it could be the most pretentious River. My literary strokes, back in 1918, when I was a kid, are a naive source. Gradually my splash is becoming more flow ... I acquire an own language to use with simplicity.


Later, over the years, I begin to feel inhabited by my characters ... and learn to separate and to cut the umbilical cord and make them speak like real living beings who have to live their own life ... theirs, not the novelist’s one.
Zunzunegui studied in the Jesuit High School of Orduña, continuing his studies at the universities of Deusto, Valladolid and Salamanca, where he went for Areilza doctor's prescription. He introduced himself with a letter from the doctor, he knows Unamuno, who would be a good friend and who, in his words, would be the author who most influenced him.


Due to the shift of his family to Madrid, he ended in his college the career of laws, and since 1948, except for their summer stays in Portugalete, came to live permanently in Madrid.
In 1957 while flying over Mexico in a dramatic situation, with one engine stopped and the other about to ignite, he read in the press about his appointment as Academic: “Zunzunegui immortal”.


With a bitter humor feature he said: Then what is going to last me tthe immortality. On his return to Spain in 1960 he took the chair vacated by Pio Baroja in the Royal Academy.
Zunzunegui is one of the most important Spanish novelists of the twentieth century and can be considered the literary chronicler of the life and customs of Bilbao and Portugalete’s societies in the first third of the century, especially of the middle classes of the population.


He knew the world of the capital, finances and trade and described faithfully the greatness and the muddy misery of its people.
To divide his very extensive literary production he liked to use the term "fleet" and, depending of the size of the volumes, called "large tonnage" and "small tonnage."
Between the first ones they stand out: Chiripi, El Chipichande, ¡Ay...estos hijos!, El barco de la muerte, La quiebra, La úlcera, El supremo bien, La vida como es, Esta oscura desbandada, El premio, Una rica hembra.... De pequeño tonelaje: Cuentos y patrañas de mi ría, Vida y paisaje de Bilbao, El hombre que iba para estatua, Dos hombres y dos mujeres en medio, El trabajo y la vida o la muerte, El Adiós a una mina de hierro y otros relatos y esbozos de mi país....
His novels and stories have been translated into all the principal European languages, as well as into the Russian, Japanese and into the Basque.


He died in 1982 and was buried in the familiar pantheon following his wishes: "I would like, the day of leaving to the other side, bury me in the cemetery of my people, hearing the rumor of the Bay, because I don’t know why I think the dead men hear" A few years later the town dedicated a single memory close the Hanging Bridge, with a bust of him build by the sculptor Jesús Torre.

 

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